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 By Lt Thomas T. Mulaudzi; photos by FSgt Corne Swart, Air Force Base Makhado.

Just three years after assuming command of 85 Combat Flying School (85 CFS), Lt Col Frans Jacob Labuschagne handed over the Unit's colours to a new Commander, Lt Col Craig Grant Leeson. The Change of Command (indoor ceremony) occasioned at 85 CFS, Air Force Base (AFB) Makhado on Friday, 18 March 2016. Addressing those in attendance, who were mostly from 85 CFS, Lt Col Labuschagne urged members to remain focused, loyal to the organization, exercise unity among each other and be supportive in order to achieve the core business of the unit.

Outgoing Officer Commanding, Lt Col Frans Labuschagne addressing the members

Furthermore, he indicated that the dedication of every member on the Unit is equally important in keeping both the Unit and the Base combat ready. He praised members for their contribution which led to the Unit being awarded the Royal Air Force Training trophy. The Unit has also been recognised as the best Training Unit in the SAAF. The memories of Lt Col Labuschagne dates way back in the early seventies (1970s) when his father was serving in the Unit as a pilot attack instructor. At the time, the unit was based at AFB Pietersburg and were flying the Mirage, Sabre and Impala fighter aircraft. He recalled waiting for his father next to the flight line upon their return from air-to-air camp at AFB Langebaanweg.

Incoming Officer Commanding 85 CFS, Lt Col Craig Leeson accepting the reins

Some of the best highlights in his career were when the Unit participated in the annual air-to- air camp, Winter Solstice exercise, a display of the four ship Hawk low level aerobatic team at Africa Aerospace and  Defence Expo (AAD), numerous fly past, Air Power Capability Demonstration and the FIFA World Cup in 2010. He thanked the leadership of the Base, the Units within the Base for providing support during his term in office.

The incoming Officer Commanding…

Lt Col Leeson was attested in the SAAF in January 1997 after matriculating in KwaZulu-Natal. He completed his pilot wings course on the pilatus PC7 Astra in March 1999 at AFB Langebaanweg. He then commenced with his combat pilot training at 85 CFS, AFB Hoedspruit.

The outgoing Officer Commanding 85 CFS, Lt Col Frans Labuschagne (left) handing over the symbol of authority to the new Officer Commanding, Lt Col Craig Leeson

Between 1999 to 2003, he completed the following courses: Fighter Orientation, Impala Operational Training, Flight Leaders Orientation and the Strike Leaders where he flew the Impala MkI and MkII. He has also served as the Unit Aviation Safety Officer and the Surface Attack Officer. In April 2003, he began with the Cheetah Operational Conversion Course at 2 Squadron, flying both Cheetah C and D aircraft. Upon completion, he served as the Unit Air Warfare Officer until January 2006. In 2006, he participated in a year long Combat Pilot Exchange with the Chilean Air Force where he flew the Mirage 50 Pantera. On his return to South Africa in 2007, he began his pilot instructors course at the 85 CFS, AFB Langebaanweg.

After achieving a B-category instructor rating in June 2008, he joined the initial Gripen aircrew at 2 Squadron where he participated in the acceptance and operational testing and evaluation of the aircraft. After completing the Gripen Operational Conversion course, he served at 2 Squadron as the Air Warfare Officer until 2010. In June 2010, he was then transferred to 85 CFS to convert onto the Hawk Mk120 and achieved a pilot attack instructor’s rating and served as the Flight Commander and Hawk Display Pilot.


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